As of yet, the app is only available for download to users in the United States. According to the Times, however, users who have already downloaded the app have been able to see content on it overseas—except, it would seem, in China:
Those in China who look at the top of the Apple News feed, which would normally display a list of selected articles based on a user’s preferred media, instead see an error message: “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region.”
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., declined to comment.
Beijing generally insists that companies are responsible for censoring sensitive content inside China. In Apple’s case, that would mean it would probably have to develop a censorship system — most Chinese companies use a combination of automated software and employees — to eliminate sensitive articles from feeds.
For now, Apple seems to be avoiding the problem by completely disabling the service for users in China.
What worries me, is that the mechanism Apple uses to disable the News app and Apple Maps uses the location of the user to change the behavior of their device without their permission, even if the location service is disabled in the privacy settings.
This “China Kill Switch” is currently limited to disabling the News App and Apple Maps, but it is easy to imagine a Chinese government official asking Apple to extend that ability to other Apps and services on our iPhones.
There is also, of course, a major difference between the Great Firewall blocking an iPhone user’s access to something and Apple doing the Chinese government’s dirty work on its behalf.